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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So here's the situation:

Today we found a baby starling on the sidewalk by my house. We live set pretty far back from the road, and it is a private sidewalk, but it is very exposed. We were not able to find the nest it came from, and it is not yet anywhere near fully fledged.

I watched it for awhile, and the parents did come to feed it, but they did nothing to relocate it, and it wandered around while they were gone. It keeps choosing really exposed places to rest. I also think it might be injured, because it's little hops seemed to always list to one side - or it could just be clumsy, not sure.

Anyway, I remembered someone on this forum had raised and knew about starlings, and I was wondering if you had advice. The parents are still feeding it, so I don't want to just take it in if I don't have to, but it's so exposed, and might be injured. I considered moving it to a bush, but I worried that if I did that while the parents were there it would scare them away from him, and if I did it while they were gone they might not be able o find him. His tendency to wander also worries me for that reason, although with the really obvious locations he chooses to rest, they seem to have no problem finding him.

I checked on it a few minutes ago, and it is sleeping on the sidewalk with its back pressed against the flox that lines the path. Should I move it? Wait until tomorrow to move it? There are foxes around here, at least, as far as nocturnal predators go. If I do move it, how do I make sure its parents find it again? Do I need to risk scaring them away to check if it is injured, or let the parents take care of that too? Or is there a way to tell without handling it? If it is injured, do I need to take it to a rehab center? Should I take it in and care for it myself, since its in such an ill-advised location? I work from home, so frequent feedings would be no problem.
 

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The parents will be able to find the fledgling as long as he's in the same general area. I would try to shepherd him into the bushes where he is safer. Grab a broom or something are gently try to get him to hop into the bushes. If he won't hop away, then I would worry about injury. He's probably just not the smartest baby bird - they are all dumb, but some are super dumb! :) And then take a picture and post it on the forum, of course!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Well, I have seen him hop around, though he seems to favor one side, but he has absolutely no fear of me If I go near him he just starts begging to be fed, the silly little thing. Still, I will try the broom thing when it is light out. I'm afraid I'd hurt him by not being able to see well enough, in the dark. He doesn't seem to be able to get over the flox that lines the path, so I may have to shepherd him all the way to the end of the path.
 

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Hey there :). That somebody you are thinking about is probably me. If you are not able to locate the nest and return the baby safely to it, chances of survival are very slim. The parents will not be able to relocate the baby without it being able to fly. They may continue to feed it but they won't spend the night with it, so chances are... it won't still be there in the morning. So you can do one of three things:
1. Try to follow the parents to locate the nest to see if you can return the baby to it.
2. Leave it be and let nature take its course.
3. Bring it home with you.

Since starlings are considered pests, most rehab centers won't take them in. They might tell you they will take them but what they won't tell you is that it will be put to sleep. But the good thing about starlings and sparrows is that they are one of only a couple of species of wild birds that are not protected by federal law, so with the exception of only about 5 states, it's legal to keep them and raise them as pets. Of course, if there is any way for it to be returned to and survive outside on its own, that's always the best choice.

If you plan to bring it inside though... be prepared to have a new family member. I can send you information on how to care for it, as well as resources for possibly finding somebody in your area to adopt it if you aren't able to take care of it yourself. For right now though, if you plan to take care of it, the most important things are to keep it warm and hydrated. I'll send you links to baby starling diet as well, but it's more important right now to make sure it is hydrated because if it's not, it won't be able to digest and absorb the food properly. A little bit of Karo syrup in water, dripped onto the side of its beak, is generally what's recommended for hydration of these little guys. I'm sure you probably already know, but please don't ever drip or squirt liquids into its mouth as that could easily cause aspiration pneumonia.

Please keep an eye on your private messages soon for some links. I'll include my private email address as well. Good luck! If you decide to keep it, you're in for a treat... I promise! :D
 

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Oh yes, there is a 4th option I forgot to mention. You could possibly built a nest box and place it high up in that location with the baby in it. Starlings don't generally nest in trees but rather usually in cavities or in the eaves of houses, buildings, etc. So your first choice should be up high under a roofline or something, but a tree will work too if you don't have other options.

If the parents were still feeding the baby on the ground, chances are they may take over feeding it in the new nest box. My husband and I were able to reunite a baby starling with its parents this way a couple of summers ago. It's a myth that the parents will reject the babies if they smell human on them, so if you go this route I would still suggest bringing it in overnight and place the nest box early in the morning. Feed the baby if he will let you before you put him out, and then of course you'll need to hang around for a while to make sure the parents find it and resume caring for it.

The important thing to remember here though (I unfortunately had to learn this the hard way) is that if there are still babies in the original nest, the parents will likely choose one nest or the other but will not tend to both. My husband and I rescued 3 babies who had fallen to the ground. One died almost immediately but we reunited the remaining 2 and were so happy when the parents took over. The 2nd baby ended up dying a couple of days later - I assume it had some internal injuries from the fall. The one remaining baby did make it and I believe that it's my Gretta's parent. But it wasn't until a few days later that I became aware that there were still 2 babies left in the original nest who ended up starving to death. The parents chose the new nest box and ignored the original nest and the babies that were still in it. So it was sort of a lose-lose situation. Just something to think about...
 

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You should leave it, unless it is obviously injured . We have a bird sanctuary here. Every spring they have to tell ppl this.
And why do they tell people this every spring? Because it's easier than having to take the babies to a vet to have them euthanized. Any sanctuary that accepts federal or state funding is not allowed to take starlings in, so it's just easier to leave them be and let nature take its course. Any other bird, besides starlings, sparrows, and rock doves... they would tell you to bring it in and they will get all of the care they need.

Baby sparrows generally spend the first couple of days on the ground after they leave the nest. Starlings do not. So if a baby starling is on the ground for any length of time, it's left the nest too early and likely will not survive. So the best thing to do, if at all possible, is to get it back to its nest. That's the first thing almost any rescue or sanctuary will tell you. I know... I've called plenty of them.

I absolutely agree that if the babies are in a position to be tended to by their parents or take care of themselves, they should be left alone. But if it can't survive on its own out there, why should it just be left to die simply because it's a starling and not a native bird? I don't believe that most caring people who have a heart for helping animals in need should just turn that off simply because it's a starling and not a bluejay (for example). But that's just my opinion.
 

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BTW, SteveO... I mean no disrespect to you in my above post. I realize that this is a topic that has been debated forever and there will never be an answer that everybody agrees on. Everybody is entitled to their opinions, and I respect yours.

I just feel that it's important that people are informed of what actually happens when they take starlings and sparrows to bird sanctuaries or rescues. I had taken quite a few over the years, thinking I was doing the right thing. It wasn't until I found my baby starling and tried to take him to a sanctuary that I learned the truth about what happens to them, and needless to say... I was pretty horrified.

Another thing to keep in mind is that one of the reasons rescues and sanctuaries will tell you to either bring the bird to them or to leave it be is very simple - it's not legal to keep and take care of most birds. But most birds also have the option of being rehabbed and hopefully released at rescue centers. Starlings do not. Although there are sanctuaries out there who will take in and actually care for starlings and sparrows, they are very few and far between. The only hope most injured or abandoned baby starlings and sparrows have for survival is by an individual with a kind and caring heart.

Edited to add: Here's another fun fact that most people are probably not aware of. There are a lot of bird rescue sanctuaries out there that will gladly take in starlings and sparrows... and then use them for food, especially those who take in raptors. They aren't allowed to release the birds of prey until they can hunt and kill live food on their own, and these helpless little starlings and sparrows are the perfect training tool to help get them to that point. I know that the raptors have to eat too, but when I think about my sweet, funny Gretta being released into an owl or eagle pen to be hunted and devoured alive, it makes me literally ill to my stomach.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thank you so much, BeanDip. I ran right out to get it as soon as I saw your message, and sure enough, it was in that same spot on the ground, all alone. Also soaking wet, because a rain storm started since I last posted. It's in the garage right now (no cars on, of course) because there may be some issues with our lease, but I'll try to talk my housemates into keeping it in the morning. I'll bring the box out at sunrise for the parents to find until we reach a decision. I really wish I owned my own home right now, instead of renting. They might be hesitant both for lease reasons and because they know how much I love birds and might think I want to keep it more than I have its best interests at heart.
Anyway, I was in a rush to get the little one out of the rain, but I'm going to go read the resources you sent me now and see if I can't make the little one more comfortable.

I think its leg might be injured, now that I've had a closer look. It doesn't seem to hurt him when I push it around a little, but he also seems hesitant to use it and is holding it at an odd angle. I would normally bring an injured wild animal straight to a wildlife center, but if they're going to euthanize it, that isn't an option. Do you think Keegan's avian vet would be able to help?

For a little more context, it's not fully feathered, and even has some bare skin showing on top of his wings, but its first flight feathers are about 1/2-1/3 of the way poked out of their sheathes. It's terribly cute, and I just want to dote on it, but I know that if it is to have any chance of returning to the wild I can't do that, so until a decision is made I will get no closer than necessary.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I used to volunteer at a wildlife sanctuary that took in sparrows. Does that mean they would take starlings too, or are they separate issues? It would be a few hours drive, but I want to do what is best for the little guy.
 

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Darling starling!

I used to volunteer at a wildlife sanctuary that took in sparrows. Does that mean they would take starlings too, or are they separate issues? It would be a few hours drive, but I want to do what is best for the little guy.[/quote

In Florida, we are located in the sub-tropics. Birds are everywhere! Especially now. My Mother lives in Rockledge, Fla( a certified national Bird sanctuary). Her neighborhood is loaded with Starlings! They are noisy and messy. They produce a 'whistle' sound when they congregate and I used to answer that whistle. It was fun:). In Florida, there are dozens and dozens of places that you can take an injured bird, no matter what type of bird you have. These places are run by individuals who love animals and they will help any animal in distress. They usually are not located in the yellow pages because it is so expensive. People just know where to find them. My Brother called the local newspaper to find someone who would take in an injured common Mockingbird. They told him where to find the "un official" shelter. Donations are accepted. Don't they have these sanctuary- type places in Mass.? They do not have to be regulated in Fla. They are called " Wildlife Sanctuaries." (usually ran by a single person who loves animals.)
 

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I used to volunteer at a wildlife sanctuary that took in sparrows. Does that mean they would take starlings too, or are they separate issues? It would be a few hours drive, but I want to do what is best for the little guy.
Yes! If they take in sparrows, they will most likely take in starlings as well. Both starlings and sparrows fall into that unprotected category so it's either neither or both. Just be sure that by "taking in", that means for rehab and release, not taking in to be killed or used to be hunted.

Obviously the decision is up to you, but my personal belief is that if there is any way that they can be rehabbed and released to live outdoors, that's the best place for them. Only if/when you don't have that option and you know that they can't survive on their own without the proper training should they be domesticated. It's true that they make amazing little feathered family members and there are thousands of people who keep them as such, but I just feel that any wild animal should remain in the wild if it can make it's way out there in the big, hard world. Just my two cents. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Ok, I'll try to call them. I do know "take in" meant raise and release, though, because I was in charge of the baby birds on the days I volunteered, and had to hand-feed a few. Actually had a brief moment of panic when one fledged unusually young and took off while I was feeding it. No one would believe me it could fly yet until I showed them the evidence. Hopefully they still exist; it was over thirteen years ago that I volunteered for them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Update: I'm becoming more and more sure one of his legs in injured. He holds it oddly, doesn't try to grasp anything with that foot, and screeches bloody murder when I pick him up to move him, despite seeming happy with my presence itself. Well, less happy with my presence now, probably because moving him hurt him, but at first he seemed to really like me, and still screeched when moved.

For now I've made him a little "nest" out of an empty mushroom boxed (thoroughly washed) and a crumpled up piece of fleece, and put him back outside in the nearest sheltered area I could find to where I retrieved him from. It's no further than he'd been wandering on his own, so his parents should be able to find him. I hope. He is less out in the open than he was, which I considered a good thing but might also conceal him from the parents. He's awfully silent for a baby bird, too. Even when he's begging, he doesn't make a single sound. In fact, the only sound I've heard him make at all was that pained one. I'm going to call some wildlife centers as soon as they open.

On the plus side, he's a huge fan of the fleece. He snuggled right into it with a blissful little expression, so I guess I did something right, at least.

I'll try to get some pictures later, if/when I have to move him again. He's even cuter now that he's dry and fluffy, instead of soaking wet and sad looking.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Update 2: I called some wildlife rehab places. One was full up, one only took injured adult birds, and that one told me there's only one place in the area that will take babies, and they won't take starlings.

Trying to get a hold of Keegan's vet now, because if he isn't injured I think I may have figured out a way to replace him in the nest. The avian vet won't be in for another hour, however. The rehabber I did talk to gave me some more instructions for caring for him in the meantime, and it looks like he's probably going to have to come inside. His parents are actively feeding him at the moment, so I'll wait until they finish for now. That will give me more time to actually get something for him to eat.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Update 3: I called Keegan's vet, but apparently if he's healthy, one of the vet techs might keep him, but if he's injured "well, we can't make any promises" except that he wouldn't be returned to me. They told me if I call back when the actual avian vet gets in, he can override that decision. I'm not taking him to them if he doesn't. Now that I've figured out how to get to his nest; if he's healthy, he should go home! If not, I want to figure something out for him. Honestly at that point he's better off being plunked down in the nest not knowing if he's hurt, and hoping for the best, than he would be in going to the vet. I brought him in right after the parents finished a feeding, so he should have until I can call the vet again and run out for proper cat food before he needs to be fed again. I'm hoping that if we can't resolve this quickly it will warm up again so his parents can take over for a little while. It's been years since I've fed baby birds, and I'm worried I might have forgotten how! I'm told that if I'm going to successfully return him to his nest (now that we have a way to get to it) I have about 24 hours from the time his parents find that he's missing. So now it's nest watch time.
There are four or five nests he could have fallen from, where I found him, and I don't want to put him in the wrong one!
 

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I found a baby starling at the side of the road many years ago, and brought it to the local nature center.
It probably didn't live. They are not an endangered species in the bird world, not indigenous (imported from England), and are a pest to our wonderful Bluebirds.
 

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I'm told that if I'm going to successfully return him to his nest (now that we have a way to get to it) I have about 24 hours from the time his parents find that he's missing.
Actually that's not true. I've successfully reunited babies with their parents on the 3rd day after having to be kept inside to get antibiotic treatment. Obviously with every day that passes, the chances decrease. But if you somehow aren't successful after the 24-hour mark, that certainly doesn't mean you should give up because as long as the parents are still there and still in "parent mode", the chances of them taking over even after 24 hours is pretty good.

That's a pretty standard rule of vets - they will see the wild animals and treat them if possible but will not return them to you no matter the outcome. They generally will either put it to sleep or will turn it over to a rehab center if they work with one that will accept that particular animal. So if the tech can't keep him, chances are he'll be put to sleep even if he's not injured, now that you already know there isn't a rehab center nearby that will take him. You can call around to other vets though and see if you can find a certified wildlife vet in your area... they usually know the laws and might be more likely to treat this baby as yours and not something that must be confiscated.

You may have to find a copy of your state law about wild birds that you can either email to them or print out and take to them to remind them that it's legal in MA to keep and take care of starlings. It seems that a lot of vets aren't even aware of that - I ran into that reaction a lot when I tried to find a vet for Gretta. It also wouldn't hurt to have a copy handy of the federal law pertaining to wild birds as well. Federal law is what determines that it's legal but an individual state can overrule that if they want. Most states have an exception written into their law that specifically excludes starlings, sparrows, and rock doves so once you have it in writing, it's not hard to prove. (Your state may vary.)
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Update 4: Finally some good news. The actual avian vet knew it was legal to keep starlings as pets, and basically told me *wink wink nudge nudge* "That's you're pet starling, right? Because if it was, we'd have to return it to you." So now I just have to hope he's healthy enough to be put back in the nest. The appointment isn't for about five hours from now, so I went out and got some of the recommended cat food and mushed it up with water to feed him. He seemed pretty happy about that. He wanted to eat and sleep at the same time, and kept startling himself back awake to ask for more food, but he's finally done for now. I'll set a timer to remind me to feed him again in half an hour.
Oh! And more good news: he's vocalizing! It's extremely quiet and hard to hear- I don't know whether or not that's normal- but he made tiny little noises while I was feeding him.
And it looks like I do still remember how to feed baby birds without hurting them, so that's good. I guess it's like riding a bike.
 
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